I woke up about 9 A.M. and headed out to see the sights with my Lonely Planet book in hand.
I had a souvenir that I needed to buy for a churchmate so I went down to Ueno to get it before I forgot about it or ran out of money. It was a little stuffed character named U-Chan that looked like a bug with two maracas coming out of his head. I found it in a toy store across from Ueno Eki. I marveled at all of the cute little stuffed animals and toys in this six story shop. There was one floor devoted to imported toys from the U.S. I thought seriously about buying a Japanese only Darth Maul bobble head to take back to some Springfield friends, but I wasn't sure they'd appreciate the twenty plus dollars that I would have to spend on the trinket.
After this, I wandered around some Japanese streets and back alleys. I passed a girl standing on a pedestal dressed in a blue dress as an anime character touting some type of pachinko.
For lunch I wandered into a Japanese fastfood place and ate a big bowl of rice, beef, and onions. In order to buy the food, you didn't speak to a cashier. You purchased a ticket from a vending machine and handed it to the chef. I was thankful that I knew enough Chinese characters to tell the difference between fish, chicken, and beef.
After lunch I walked over to Ueno park. It was a dreary day, but I was able to pass university students having a picnic and eating under the just bloomed cherry blossom trees. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Museum are located in the area, but unfortunately it was Sunday and they had early closing times.
On the way out of the park I passed some crazy Japanese antics. There was a group of guys and a few girls dressed up in poodle skirts and black leather jackets. They were drinking beer and doing crazy dances in the park. It looked like a scene from an Asiatic version of Grease.
That night I rode the train down to Roppongi. On the subway I struck up a conversation with a black guy that I suspected was an American. Unfortunately, my suspicions were wrong. He was really an African who was working as a tout for a gentleman's club. While we were still riding the train I let my curiosity get the best of me and I pumped him for information about the Japanese underworld. After we got to Roppongi, I ended my conversation with him. Much later that evening, I saw him again while he was still out touting. I was able to tell him that I was a Christian and that my convictions prevented my from engaging in any of the activities he offered. He just smiled at me.
In Roppongi I looked at all of the clubs and found it surprising to find a salsa club in Japan. Who would think that the Japanese would be into Cuban style salsa dancing? While in Roppongi, I also walked in a Pachinko parlour and had my first and only experience with that type of gaming. It was loud and chaotic. Pachinko is a mindless game where people shoot little tiny balls into a pinball machine. The whole place had the ambiance of a Showbiz pizza game room for adults. If they strike it big, people can turn the balls in for gift certificates, cigarettes, more tiny little balls, and other assorted memorabilia.
That night, I made it back to Asakusa and checked out a comic book rental shop that is run by Namco and located above a Denny's. It is a place where people can pay 200 Yen to read comic books, eat snacks, and smoke cigarettes. If you pay more you can surf the internet, sit in massage chairs or watch DVDs. The Japanese love comic books and their love seems to be a national obsession everywhere you look on trains, public areas, and restaurants are young and old people alike reading comic books.
I concluded my day with a trip to Mr. Doughnut.
Sunday, April 01, 2007